Subject: Re: patent trolls and X-licensors
From: "Ben Tilly" <btilly@gmail.com>
Date: Mon, 5 Jun 2006 14:23:48 -0700

On 6/5/06, Don Marti <dmarti@zgp.org> wrote:
> begin Thomas Lord quotation of Mon, Jun 05, 2006 at 11:52:31AM -0700:
>
> > But what's in it for the inventors?
> > A good job at a respectable salary?   Heck, they
> > already had that.
>
> Would they have not published without the ability to
> get a patent?

I hope that's a rhetorical question.  A bigger issue is how many
people delay publishing because they are applying for a patent.  A
secondary issue is how many ideas don't circulate, and how many more
are not pursued, because people don't want to deal with patents.

> Did the quality or quantity of math and CS
> publications go up when software patents became
> available?

I have seen claims that the encouragement starting in the 80s for
academics to pursue patents resulted in a slowing of public research
in biotech.  The reasons offered were exactly those that I cited
above.

My direct (if dated and relatively brief) observation of the wavelet
world suggests that when an area of computer science becomes a subject
of patents, it significantly slows real-world adoption of that area.
(Not that adoption of wavelets has been slow - quite the contrary.
But I believe it to be much slower than it would have been had it not
been for the fact that people have been trying to patent everything.)

> If we're Society and we have Limited Resources, paying
> people a bonus to do what they would have done anyway
> seems like a waste.
[...]

It is worse than that.  It seems to me that we're paying people to put
barriers in the way of doing what they would have done otherwise.
Don't get me wrong, I'm all for seeing researchers getting lots of
money and I'd like to see more money going into research.  But I
believe that patents are counterproductive for that goal.

Cheers,
Ben